Exclusive: Quash Quarantine campaigners call for transparency after Government defends policy

Proponents of a lobbying campaign would like the Government to publish the scientific advice informing its decision to impose mandatory quarantine on travellers entering the UK after it defended the policy.

The UK began its mandatory quarantine of international travellers on 8 June
The UK began its mandatory quarantine of international travellers on 8 June

The Government has defended its quarantine policy, arguing that it is informed by science and would help prevent a second wave of coronavirus transmission, following a PRWeek podcast that was critical of the policy.

On Monday, travel industry leaders, including The PC Agency founder Paul Charles and Kuoni head of communications Rachel O’Reilly, argued that the quarantine policy was “ridiculous”, “daft” and poorly thought-out, and would inflict further damage on an already ailing travel sector.

A Government spokesperson told PRWeek its priority is to protect the public’s health.

“The quarantine system is designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad, and help prevent a devastating second wave. These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe.

“We are supporting tourism businesses through one of the most generous economic packages in the world, and continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so.”

In response, Charles told PRWeek he would like to see the minutes of discussions with the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), which provides scientific advice to the Government on how it should handle the pandemic.

“If it is being informed by science, why is the Government so scared to publish the advice from its own advisory group, SAGE, about introducing quarantine measures from 8 June?” Charles asked.

“Secondly, how do the quarantine measures stop new cases coming in from abroad when [incoming passengers] are free to transit at a UK airport or even take public transport from the airport to their home, possibly infecting many people unwittingly?” 

Charles also questioned why there have been no penalties or fines issued since the measures were introduced, and whether the Government was following up with quarantined travellers.

He added: “They are ridiculous, laughable measures and the Government knows it.”

Derek Jones, chief executive of Kuoni’s parent company, DER Touristik UK, took exception to the notion that the Government was supporting the tourism industry.

He told PRWeek: “While the travel sector is continuing to do everything it can to limit the spread of the virus, it is simply not the case to say that the tourism industry is being supported.  Along with all other businesses, we have welcomed the job retention scheme, but there has been no specific response to the unique challenges we are facing."  

Jones said that lobbying efforts had so far failed to deliver tangible support from the Government for an industry that is faced with issuing refunds for thousands of holidays and no clear prospect of a reopening date.

“Jobs are being lost in the tourism industry right now,” he said. “International travel will not bounce back as some other sectors will. The quarantine system is just the latest blow to the travel industry – a review of this policy is needed urgently.”

Listen to the original podcast about Quash Quarantine below. Guests include Charles, Kuoni head of comms Rachel O'Reilly and PRWeek editor-in-chief Danny Rogers.

PRWeek UK is committed to having a more diverse selection of commentators in our articles, and is compiling a list of BME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) PR professionals who are willing to be quoted. To be added to the list, please email john.harrington@haymarket.com and include your specialist areas of expertise, and/or preferred subjects for commentary.

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